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Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010

Issue of the Week: Expanding the Questionable School Voucher Program

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Why is there so much love for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program?

After all, researchers from the University of Arkansas found that students in the voucher program aren’t performing any better than their peers in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

Same goes for Milwaukee’s charter school students, according to a new report from the same research team.

So why would Gov.-elect Scott Walker and Republican legislators want to expand the voucher program, originally intended for low-income students in the city, to other cities across Wisconsin?

Why would the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), according to an internal strategy memo, push to expand the program to all students, regardless of their family’s income?

Money, plain and simple. Taxpayer money, to be exact.

Private schools—including religious schools—want their hands on taxpayer money.

The business community wants to get its hands on that money, too. In fact, MMAC is considering becoming a chartering agency, according to its strategy memo.

Conservative politicians—who hold public office but don’t believe in government—want the support of religious conservatives and the business community. So, they want to privatize education, just like they want to privatize other government functions.

But when you get down to it, Milwaukee’s voucher school students aren’t doing any better, on average, then their public school peers despite the fact that there is a self-selection process to get into a voucher school. In fact, once the school year gets under way, voucher students are more likely to transfer back to an MPS school than the other way around.

So if legislators and the MMAC are really concerned about education, they should take the time to actually read the research studies rather than rely on their right-wing ideological positions. Children’s lives and futures depend on their education. These ideologues need to ask: Are we really serving our kids by experimenting with their education? Because if they ask the researchers, they’ll find that voucher students aren’t any better off than MPS students, period.

Event of the Week

‘Celebrating’ Scott Walker’s Inauguration

We should be grateful that the transfer of power in the United States is peaceful after every election, no matter how contentious a campaign may be. But that doesn’t mean that new administrations—including the incoming Scott Walker administration—are always accountable to the people. That’s why Milwaukee’s workers and jobless individuals will travel to Madison on Inauguration Day to ask Scott Walker to remember the jobs crisis in Milwaukee and make good on his campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term. The coalition sponsoring the prayer service and rally at the Capitol—Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods, MICAH, the League of Young Voters and the Milwaukee Area Labor Council—will provide buses on Monday, Jan. 3, which will leave from the Talgo parking lot at 27th and Hopkins streets at 6:30 a.m. and return to Milwaukee by 4 p.m. For more information, call 207-8165.

Heroes of the Week

City on a Hill Staff and Volunteers

As the percentage of Milwaukeeans living below the poverty line increases, the staff and volunteers at City on a Hill (2224 W. Kilbourn Ave.) remain steadfast in their efforts to “reduce poverty, strengthen families and foster racial reconciliation.” The faith-based nonprofit offers a multitude of programs to educate and empower both children and adults, including parenting classes, a pregnancy counseling center, summer camps, a health clinic and community mobilization events.

City on a Hill relies on a cadre of volunteers to fulfill its mission of enacting positive social change. Readers who wish to donate or volunteer are encouraged to visit www.cityonahillmilwaukee.org to learn about the many opportunities available.

Jerk of the Week

State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend)

Bah, humbug! That’s Sen. Glenn Grothman’s response to the welcome news that the Wisconsin State Plan Amendment has been approved by the feds. The amendment raises the income level for free family-planning services under Medicaid to 300% of the federal poverty level (about $32,000 annually) for both men and women. That’s a very good thing, especially during a recession, when paying for birth control and other reproductive health services can be difficult. It’ll also save money in the long run, since fewer financially struggling men and women will have unwanted pregnancies, abortions or health-sapping STDs. But Grothman isn’t happy about this turn of events. No, not Grothman. The ultraconservative state senator, who consistently opposes any sort of pro-birth-control measure, will do what he can to “pare back” the program so that fewer individuals will be covered.

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